Monday, August 27, 2007

Short and Simple

The fourth day of training wasn't for the team. Saturday morning I got up and hit the road before first light and made the long drive to Seattle. Still feeling sleep deprived, but I wanted to do this.

Bob had asked me to come up to his dojo and be a guest teacher at a clinic. He said, "I'll do some judo, we'll have some aikido guys there and you get to do the tactics part."

What the hell does that mean? The tactics part? Entries? Team fighting? I asked and he wouldn't answer. Bob is just that laid back: "Whatever you want to do. You're good, everyone will have fun and I'm cooking barbecue."

It's a dojo where he sets up the grill outside and keeps beer in the fridge with the bottled water. It's perfect and I hope that you can understand this because it is powerful and wonderful: whether he ever realizes it consciously or not, Bob doesn't draw a distinction between his dojo and his home or his students and his family. He acts on the mat the way he acts with his best friends. There is no pretention at all. That is rare and special.

I generally like playing with judoka. They know their stuff, they know what they are doing (judo) and know what they aren't doing (self-defense fantasies). This tends to make them better at self defense than people who think they are training for it.

BTW- You didn't think 'Short and Simple' referred to this entry, did you?

The aikido bothered me and I was finally able to put my finger on what usually bothers me about aikido. A good aikidoka develops, in my opinion, two skills that are awesome in a real fight (caveat- they need to practice in a real fight before they can apply them, but the foundation is there): 1) aikidoka can find the empty space. They practice moving to where the sword or the fist isn't and where it's not going to be. It sounds simple, yet very few martial artists every practice it or think about it. 2) They can be masters at using gifts of momentum when they are presented.

The cool/weird thing about using momentum (with the exception of using it to increase force in a strike) is that it is effortless. The threat halls off and tries to take your head off with a straight punch and you gently touch the moving hand on one side and he fractures his fist against a wall. That's effortless and awesome. I think a lot of what I see and dislike in aikido comes from equating the feeling of effortlessness with effectiveness.

What I saw was a lot of long and complex chains of action. Each link in the chain was effortless, but by the time you had gone through eight links...

One in particular struck me, because it started with a spiral pass parry to a wrist lock that was then reversed, passed and wound up with a bent shoulder lock... and the exact same shoulder lock was right there from the initial spiral parry if you just frigging stepped in instead of focusing on blending so much.

Later, in the course of my piece, we talked about knife defenses. One of the aikido instructors had been a witness to a stabbing some time ago. It was an ambush and pretty well matched my knowledge of knife attacks. Using that real example, did it look like the knife attacks they practiced against in classes? Why not?

It's like practicing defenses against elephant charges. You know anyone who has been charged by an elephant? Why do so many martial artists practice against X when they know that Y happens? Why practice dodging imaginary elephants instead of real cars?

Kris Wilder (goju-ryu karate) was the star of the show. He's been doing something with spine alignment and structure that is pushing both his striking power and his body's ability to withstand blunt trauma to some interesting places. I've seen a lot of these things done in static positions. Kris can do them moving and seems to apply it in his judo as well as his karate (important note- I've seen some 'tai chi secrets' that were basic body alignment skills from judo; the judoka could use them moving, the 'tai chi master' couldn't).

His structural striking embodied the concept of short and simple.

More to work on.

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